In doing so, he keeps the biggest, most important campaign promise he made: to pass legislation to crush the virus, jumpstart the economy and give relief to so many Americans who desperately needed it. And he did it without the support of any Republicans in the House or Senate.
Republicans may very well regret not supporting the American Rescue Plan — and Democrats should make sure of it.
The president, the vice president and the entire Cabinet (at least those who have been confirmed) should do an old-fashioned victory tour to tout the law to all Americans, including former President TrumpDonald TrumpThe Memo: How the COVID year upended politics Biden seeks his moment with pandemic address A year with the coronavirus: How we got here MORE’s base, which stands to benefit greatly from it.
The American Rescue Plan contains provisions that will give low- and middle-income families a much-needed infusion of cash right now, when they need it most. Unemployment benefits run out in mid-March, and this new law is expected to go into effect immediately.
At every step, Democrats should chastise Republicans for refusing to support a law that will reduce poverty by a third among low-income Americans and by 40 to 50 percent among low-income children, allow people to keep their houses, put our kids back in school safely, and save thousands of small businesses from bankruptcy. It will help low-income Americans much more so than Trump’s tax cut ever did.
Now, the political two-step begins for Republicans as they face an American public that overwhelmingly supports the American Rescue Plan as a whole, and many of the individual components at even higher numbers and in a bipartisan manner. According to CNN’s polling, 85 percent of Americans are behind provisions in the law that would give larger tax credits for families and make those easier to obtain by low-income households. These tax credits are supported by broad majorities in both parties — 95 percent of Democrats, 73 percent of Republicans; 77 percent of Americans support providing funds to schools to help return K-12 students to in-person learning. Additionally, 76 percent support the $1,400 per-person checks that will be sent directly to individuals and families, and that support is bipartisan, coming from 90 percent of Democrats and 55 percent of Republicans.
Republicans should be asked: what part of this bill do they not support? Why is it that when it comes to helping poor, low-income and working-class Americans, Republicans always turn the other way?
Some may believe that Republican opposition to the COVID-19 relief bill is a cynical political tactic that they will try to weaponize in the 2022 midterm elections. That will not work, however. We are already seeing a Republican senator brazenly try to take credit for the influx of financial relief his district will receive, despite not supporting it when he had the chance to vote for it. Other Republicans will be more than happy to attend ceremonies or opening events in their home districts courtesy of money from the American Rescue Plan. They also will attack Democrats for passing a bill solely on a partisan vote. But whose fault is that?
Democrats, it turns out, learned their lesson from 2009, most likely because President Biden personally lived it. Back then, as now, President Obama and then-Vice President Biden wanted to pass a bipartisan measure to help save the economy from certain financial ruin. To gain support from Republicans, the measure was watered down to an $800 billion package that fell short of what the economy needed to benefit all Americans, leading to an anemic recovery with many economic sectors and workers left behind. Donald Trump rose from the ashes of that resentment.
This time, President Biden was going to do what most economists agreed with, while still asking for Republican support but refusing to weaken the economic help that needed to go to low-income and middle-class families. The administration did have to take out some of the provisions, such as the $15 hourly minimum wage requirement, to be able pass the legislation by a simple 51-vote majority in the Senate, keeping the support of Sen. Joe ManchinJoseph (Joe) ManchinManchin cements key-vote status in 50-50 Senate Schumer moves to bring up Becerra’s nomination after committee tie No Republicans back .9T COVID-19 relief bill MORE (D-W.Va.). Some Democratic pet projects that Republicans had complained about were stripped as well.
Even so, Republicans stood defiant of an ailing nation, of American workers desperate for relief, and of a bill that would be transformational to the country’s income inequalities.
CNN reported that some Republican voters were very disappointed that House and Senate Republicans voted against the plan that would bring them and their families much needed relief. But the real danger Republicans face is that the law they rejected will help many in Trump’s base. What will they tell constituents back home? What excuse will they use to explain why they voted against millions of dollars of relief for constituents’ families and, when Trump was in office, supported an equally massive bill that mostly helped rich Americans and corporations?
This is the dichotomy of being a trickle-down Republican,desperate to have Trump’s appeal to low-income white voters rub off on you, while your policies treat these same voters with disdain. But it is not a sustainable strategy — as Democrats should point out every chance they get.
Maria Cardona is a longtime Democratic strategist and was co-chair of the Democratic National Committee’s rules and bylaws committee for the party’s 2020 convention. She is a principal at Dewey Square Group, a Washington-based political consulting agency, and a CNN/CNN Español political commentator. Follow her on Twitter @MariaTCardona.